The Shar-Pei originated in China and traces of the breed have been found as far back as 200 B.C. Shar-Peis were originally used as hunting and for protecting live stock. The dog was purposefully breed to have very loose skin – so that if it was grabbed or bit the dog could actually swivel around to face his opponent and defend himself. At the beginning of the Communist era in China, the dog breed all but disappeared. This breed may be a descendant of the Chow-Chow, but the only clear link between the two is the purple tongue. Although the Shar-Pei breed was almost eliminated from China, breeders in Hawaii, Hong Kong and Taiwan have kept the breed going. They eventually found their way to the United States in 1973 and were finally recognized by the AKC in 1992.
A Shar-Pei is a large dog with wrinkled skin. It has a square profile. Their tongue is blue-black or purple. They have small almond-shaped eyes which are dark, although in lighter canines, the eyes may lighter in color as well. Ears are very small and slightly rounded at the tips. The amount of wrinkles can vary from dog to dog. Puppies have many more wrinkles than an adult. Shar-Pei loose their wrinkles as they get older. The coat comes in three varieties: horse coat, brush coat, and bear coat which is the most rare. All varieties of coat can be up to one inch long. Colors include all solid colors and sables. They can also be spotted and parti-colored; these colors disqualify the Shar-Pei from being a show dog. A Shar-Pei is usually 18 to 20 inches tall and weighs between 40 and 55 pounds.
The ideal companion for a Shar-Pei would be experienced dog handlers, families, and singles. The Shar-Pei is easy going and friendly, loyal yet independent and can appear to be aloof. They need a human who is gentle yet familiar with the breed’s personality and consistent with training to reinforce positive behavior. They are generally silent dogs, but they will bark if they sense a threat. Because the have a lot of wrinkles around their head, Shar-Peis can be sensitive to heat and require plenty of shade and water. Due to the skin folds around their eyes, they have poor peripheral vision and some can be prone to a painful eye condition called entropion – where the eyelashes curl inward toward the eye. Surgery is usually required to fix this condition. A Shar-Pei will do fine in an apartment if they are given plenty of exercise. They are moderately inactive indoors and can cope without a yard.
The Shar-Pei should be brushed regularly. The coat does not need to be trimmed. The “bush” coat sheds slightly year round. The “horse” coat sheds only during molting periods. These molting periods may leave the Shar-Pei looking unkempt. A bath and brushing once a week during this molting period will help to remove the old coat and allow the new coat to grow in.